It was raining yesterday morning when I got to the golf club, that mizzling stuff that’s not heavy but persistent and very, very good at making you feel damp and miserable. I used to call it ‘wetting rain’, much to Dai’s irritation. “All rain is wetting,” he’d say. So I was gratified when a friend – English, not Irish – described it that way. I think she also called it “that Welsh rain”, which was even better. Perfect, really, because Dai, who was born in Crewe, felt very Welsh.
I believe it was a rugby master at school who first called him Dai (the Welsh diminutive of David) and, with a paternal grandfather who was born in Swansea or thereabouts, that was it, the deal was done, the boy was Welsh. His sister and brother were afflicted differently – they’re English but there’s no accounting for taste.
Dai used to win a lot of rugby bets with an English friend who persisted in backing England during the then Five Nations even though Wales were in their pomp. Year after year Dai won the money by backing Wales and then, when the tide turned and England started punching their weight and making proper use of their resources, he stopped backing Wales and still won the money. His friend was aghast, horrified, mega annoyed at this treachery and his failure to win back any of his money. Where was blind national pride when you needed it!
Well, both England and Wales supporters are in for a nervous weekend, with England playing New Zealand, the defending champions, in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup in Japan and Wales playing South Africa. I’d like Wales to win the whole thing, not because I am, as Dai used to say, Welsh by insertion but simply because they’d be a new name on the trophy but I won’t be putting any money on it.
I’ll have a relatively relaxing weekend because Ireland, world No 1, according to the rankings, a few weeks ago, were taken to the cleaners by the All Blacks, outplayed, mangled, stomped upon, however you want to describe it. Funnily enough, a hammering is much easier to take than a BBU (brave but unavailing), a narrow loss, where you know there were moments that could have made all the difference….if only, if only. There were no if onlys for us last weekend. We could have lost by quite a lot fewer points if we hadn’t made some crass errors – unforced they’re called in tennis but they weren’t unforced, they were forced by the excellence, the relentlessness of the opposition; our minds had turned to mush. Ah well, given our resources reaching the quarters is pretty good.
Rory McIlroy, a keen rugby fan, was at that match against New Zealand because, in a smart bit of scheduling, he was in Japan to play a skins game against Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day. Day, an Australian, won most of the money but Rory got to watch the rugby and play a bit of golf with BOD, Brian O’Driscoll, one of Ireland’s greatest ever rugby players. Nice work, even when Brooks Koepka is reminding you that you haven’t won a major since he came on tour…..
I’m not convinced that Brooks’s jibe, gentle enough though it is, is a good idea. Rory’s no Tiger, a single-minded obsessive intent on world domination – which he achieved at no little personal cost. But Rory is a competitor and Brooks might just have ignited a slow-burning fuse. Let’s hope there are plenty of fireworks for us to enjoy.
At a vastly lower, more or less subterranean level, I once won a long jump competition because one of the other competitors got so far up my nose that I jumped two feet further than I’d ever jumped before. She had jumped further than anybody else and was going round asking everyone what their best jump was, knowing that she was way ahead of us all. She was an arrogant little sod and inspired me beyond my capability. Two feet is a hell of a long way, the sort of improvement that would have the drug testers knocking at the door the next day. Except that we had no drugs testers at schools level in those days and no drugs cheat would be idiotic enough to improve by that much in one go – surely?
Anyway, I’d like to see Rory win more majors, perhaps even a Masters, though that may be the one that eludes him, simply because he wants it so much. Barring accidents and injury he’ll be competing for an Olympic medal in Japan next year and he’s confirmed that he’ll be representing Ireland. Being from Northern Ireland, he could choose GB or Ireland and he avoided making a decision by not competing at the last Olympics in Rio because, he said, of the danger of the Zika virus. Justin Rose won the gold and the whole event took on a different aura.
Rory has now committed to playing for Ireland, the country he represented throughout his amateur career and the thought of him and Shane Lowry, the Open champion, teaming up is mouth-watering. Except that Olympic golf is not a team thing – yet. Individual strokeplay has its place but Olympic golf needs to be different and introducing a team element would be a good idea. Even better, make it a mixed team event. You could still have individual events for men and women but a mixed team event would pay more than lip service to the mantra ‘growing the game’.Japan is a country so golf mad that it inspired Tiger Woods to a first round of 64, six under par, in the Zozo Championship the other day and encouraged all those who think the former world No 1 should choose himself, the US captain, to play in the Presidents Cup in Melbourne in December. Fine. If Tiger chooses himself he consigns the Presidents Cup, which is currently less competitive than me against Tiger head to head playing level from the same tees (I exaggerate but not by much) to eternal nothingness, a non-event sans pareil.
Your choice Tiger.